A New York Times investigation found that Providence, one of the nation’s largest health systems, pressured patients into paying their medical bills — even those who were eligible for financial assistance.
Instead, the system devised a business strategy to get patients to pay up.
“The result, in the case of Providence, is that thousands of poor patients were saddled with debts that they never should have owed,” NYT reporters found.
The health system spent less than 1% of its expenses on charity care last year, a decline from prior years, according to the health system’s annual audited financial reports.
In 2018, it spent about 1.25% of its expenses on charity care, less than the average for nonprofits, according to a report from Johns Hopkins University researchers.
Providence spent less than 1% of its expenses on charity care in 2021
The report analyzing charity care spending found that on average nonprofit hospitals spent about 2% of expenses on charity care, according to data from 2018.
The report found that despite their obligation, nonprofit hospitals spent less on charity care than their for-profit peers.
In exchange for not paying taxes, nonprofit hospitals are supposed to provide some type of benefit to the communities in which they operate. That benefit may include charity care, which is reduced or free care for low-income patients.
The report comes amid financial woes for the Washington-based health system.
Providence reported a $934 million operating loss through the first half of the year as patient volumes stagnated and the system paid for pricier labor.
As a result, the health system said in July that it will begin restructuring and reducing executive roles amid persistent operating challenges spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.